Overall rank: #1
Conference rank: #1 SEC
Florida Team Page
And at the top of the College Sports Madness baseball rankings this year is the team that couldn’t quite reach the top last year. The Southeastern Conference ended up with the two best teams in baseball facing off in the College World Series, and Florida dropped two games to South Carolina.
2011: 53-19, 22-8
2011 Postseason: Lost in College World Series (beat Texas, beat Vanderbilt twice, lost twice to South Carolina)
Coach: Kevin O’Sullivan
Catcher Mike Zunino (see Who to Watch) is a one-man wrecking crew, but more on him later. There are plenty of other offensive weapons on a team that smacked 69 round-trippers a year ago. Outfielder Daniel Pigott (.331-5-40, 21 doubles, 15 stolen bases) makes up for less power with more speed to provide a well-rounded package. He only struck out 31 times in 257 at-bats. Infielder/outfielder Preston Tucker (.308-15-74) would lead most teams with his home run power, but on this team he’s second. That gives you a very good idea of how this team stands in terms of talent and leadership. First baseman/pitcher Brian Johnson (.307-5-29) and infielder Nolan Fontana (.289-5-49) both return, and so does catcher/infielder Austin Maddox (.280-6-35). This is a pretty explosive lineup up and down, and when you consider there are backups like infielder/outfielder Vickash Ramijt (.382-1-7, 29 hits in 76 at-bats).
Three of the top four pitchers return to the lineup, the one absence being reliever Nick Maronde, who had a pretty strong walk/strikeout ratio of nine walks and 55 K’s. Maronde’s absence will be felt, but the return of Steven Rodriguez (4-2, 1.91 ERA, 12 walks, 44 strikeouts) and Greg Larson (1-1, 2.09, seven walks and 30 strikeouts) will bolster the relieving corps. Top starters Hudson Randall (11-3, 2.17, 13 walks and 73 strikeouts) and Karsten Whitson (8-1, 2.40, 28 walks, 92 K) are back in the lineup, as is Johnson (8-3, 3.62, 15 walks, 72 K). All of the pitchers returning have one thing in common. The assistant coaches work well with this team to limit the amount of walks and increase the strikeouts. If this rotation were a fantasy team, chances are you’d top your league in pitching.
Who to Watch:
Mike Zunino is a name to remember, as he could be in the big leagues within five years if that bat stays hot. Keep in mind Zunino did all this in 72 games: a .371 batting average, 19 home runs, 74 runs batted in, 75 runs, 98 hits, 23 doubles. All that in just 264 at-bats. Translated into a major league season, that results in numbers resembling a .340-40-150 catcher. See why big-league scouts are drooling puddles when they see Zunino in action? This guy crushes a ball. He’s simply incredible, and look for Zunino to be on a lot of postseason honor lists when all is done.
Where South Carolina lost a lot of talent from last year’s team, Florida gained and kept its talent. The race to the SEC title should be interesting, but so should the race through the postseason. It is very possible these teams could meet again in the College World Series, and if they do it could be a big battle to see how everything works out. Florida has a lot of talent on its roster and the new recruits coming in should bolster the bench.
Projected Postseason: NCAA
At bats: Preston Tucker, IF/OF, 286
Hits: Mike Zunino, C, 98
Home Runs: Mike Zunino, C, 19
RBIs: Preston Tucker, IF/OF, 74
Runs: Preston Tucker, IF/OF, 75
Stolen Bases: Daniel Pigott, OF, 15
Wins: Hudson Randall, P, 11
Innings Pitched: Hudson Randall, P, 124.1
Strikeouts: Karsten Whitson, P, 92
Saves: Austin Maddox, P, 5
Madness 2012 MLB Draft Rankings:
#20 Michael Zunino
#24 Brian Johnson
#45 Nolan Fontana
#67 Austin Maddox
#97 Preston Tucker
#99 Hudson Randall